Offered here is what is one of the most significant Federal League items we have ever seen: an official Federal League baseball that was used during the opening ceremonies at Terrapin Park in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 10, 1915. The ball's provenance is laid bare by the numerous vintage handwritten notations on the ball, all of which are supported by an accompanying one-page typed letter. It should be noted that an official Federal League ball itself is a rare item, let alone one that was used during a club's opening-day ceremonies. This is the first official Federal League ball we have ever offered and we have only seen a few other examples at auction over the past fifteen years.
The story behind this ball, which we will summarize here, can be fully understood by simply reading the inscriptions on the ball and then referencing the accompanying letter. To help garner publicity for the Baltimore Terrapins' home opener on April 10, 1915, which was the club's second and final season (the Federal League was only in existence for two years), the team partnered with St. Ann's Catholic Club for a novel event. The first ball of the new season would be delivered, relay style, from the Terrapins' business office in the Union Trust Building to Terrapin Park by six members of the Club's track team. To add to the pomp of the ceremony, the runners took to the streets adorned in beautiful silver medals, which were graciously donated by M. S. Hecht, owner of Baltimore's famous Hecht Bros. department store.
Five of the six ball panels bear vintage black-ink notations detailing the ball's history and read as follows: 1)
“Dick O’Connell/Mgr. St. Ann’s/Quinn – pitcher lost to Newark 3 to 1/Falkenberg twirled for Newark” (on ball label and side panel). 2)
"St. Ann's runner's relay first ballfrom Fed Offices Charles + [illegible]/sts to Gov Goldsborough at/Terrapin Park Opening/Day April 10, 1915/Time 16 Minutes" (on side panel). 3) "
St. Ann's/Catholic Club/Relay Team/Irvin B. Thawley/Joseph Lynch/S.E. Atkinson – E.A. Kraus/Walter James/Edward Swift" (on a side panel). 4)
“Silver Meadle [sic] given to each/ runner by Balto Fed Official/Presentation of same to/Mayor James H. Preston/Attendance 23000/Roy Morgan/[two illegible words]" (on a side panel). 5)
"Opening Day/Terrapin Pk./Balto/April 10th/1915." A signature appears to be written across the sweet spot, but it has faded beyond legibility. Because two of the panels appear to have been written in a different hand than the others, it is possible that this ball was inscribed both prior to and after the event.
The accompanying letter, which is dated March 24, 1915, is written to "The Federal League Baseball Club" by two officials of St. Ann's Catholic Club and corroborates the information displayed on the ball. It is interesting to read that because of some miscommunication between the two parties, St. Ann's Catholic Club had made its own arrangements and changed the starting point from the Terrapins' business office to a different venue, which from the tone of this letter, greatly angered the Terrapins' front office. In Part:
Gentlemen: When arrangements were made for the run, Secretary Goldman stated that the Fed. Offices would be closed that day, but that he would get someone in the Union Trust Building to toss the ball out of the window. The Chairman of St. Ann’s Athletic Board and the manager of the Track team, realizing that the Club would be put to a great deal of expense, and wishing to get as much publicity as possible for the Club and the Feds., suggested that the ball be started from some place where they would get such publicity. After scouting through the business district, they finally decided that The Hub, at Baltimore and Charles Sts., which has a splendid roof garden, was the ideal place to start from. As the Fed. Offices would be closed - - not thinking at the time that they were infringing on the authority of Secretary Goldman – the Chairman and Manager called upon the Management of The Hub, and asked permission to start said relay from the roof garden. This was granted, and in addition Mr. M.S. Hecht stated that he would donate six sterling silver medals for those runners who will participate. The Chairman of the Athletic Board and the Manager of the Track Team now realize the grave mistake they have made in not consulting Secretary Goldman before making the above arrangements; but, on account of the expense St. Ann’s Club has been put to in purchasing beautiful running suits, streamers and banners, and the expense Mr. M.S. Hecht has undergone by ordering six sterling silver medals, as well as the loss of the medals to the runners if the start is made elsewhere, -- they ask that their plans may be allowed, if there is any way possible, to go through as arranged; which will be greatly appreciated. Respectfully, R.C. O’CONNELL, Chairman Athletic Board, I.B. Thawley, Manager Track Team, ST. ANN’S CATHOLIC CLUB
This is an extraordinary piece of Federal League memorabilia and, given what we know, was almost certainly used during the ceremonial first pitch that officially opened the Terrapins' 1915 season. As most collectors are aware, any and all material relating to the short-lived Federal League is rare. Important artifacts, such as this ball, are rarer still and are practically nonexistent. The fact that is accompanied by a period, supporting document only adds to its appeal. The ball is moderately toned, with a few tiny abrasions, but all of the original manufacturer's stampings remain bold and legible. In Very Good to Excellent condition overall. The letter (8.5 x 11 inches) is in Good condition, with numerous tears (including paper loss) along the fold lines, but all of the text remains legible. Total: 2 items (ball and letter). Opening Bid $2,000. Estimate $6,000+.
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